A Nigerian-Canadian man who spent eight months in Ontario detention centres awaiting immigration officials to verify his identity, has sued the Canada Border Services Agency for $10 million.
Olajide Ogunye, 47, was born in Nigeria and moved to Canada with his family in the 1990s. A few years after that, in 1996, he became a Canadian citizen. But his citizenship and Ontario health cards did not convince CBSA officers of his identity when they approached him outside his Toronto home on June 1, 2016, as he was headed to work at the hair salon he owned.
“I was confused, really confused,” Ogunye says. The officers told him they were doing a sweep of the area, he says.
After the officers searched his home and told him they did not believe he was truly Olajide Ogunye, they brought him to CBSA’s base at Pearson airport, the Greater Toronto Enforcement Centre.
According to Ogunye’s statement of claim, the officers ran his fingerprints, which they said matched the identity of a man named Oluwafemi Kayode Johnson, a failed refugee claimant who had been deported from Canada to Nigeria in the 1990s.
Ogunye says he was told the CBSA believed he was actually Johnson, who had returned to Canada illegally and assumed Ogunye’s identity. Those fingerprints, according to court documents, were never produced by the CBSA to Ogunye.
“It was very frustrating. Somebody telling you you’re not your name,” says Ogunye. “I showed them all my IDs. I showed them my citizenship. How are you going to put a Canadian citizen in jail?”
CBC reported that Ogunye says he was locked up for a total of eight months, from June 2016 through February 2017, spending a month at Maplehurst Correctional Complex in Milton, Ont., and the rest of his time at Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ont., a medium/maximum security prison. Because of almost daily lockdowns, Ogunye claims, he was unable to contact family members.
“One time, for the whole month, I was crying non-stop. I was crying continuously,” he recalls, and was put on suicide watch as his mental state suffered. “The nurse had to give me depression pills to make me calm down.”
Ogunye says his physical health declined as well, and he was taking pills each day for high blood pressure, depression and a prostate condition.
On Feb. 4, 2017, he was released. CBSA issued a report on his release, detailing efforts to interview members of Ogunye’s family. The first interview was conducted 6½ months after his initial arrest.
Ogunye says he wants to sue for $10 million, because of how long the investigation into his identity took.
“They put me through a lot. They destroyed my life. I lost my job,” said Ogunye. “They destroyed my family. I don’t have a good relationship with my kids anymore. I don’t think that’s going to come back.”